Author Topic: Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C  (Read 2738 times)

JKoerner007

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Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C
« on: November 11, 2017, 19:14:20 »


I have sold my Nikkor AI-S 50mm f/1.2 and am looking to replace it with an all-metal, pre-AI, version.

Based on some research, centering on Roland's site, with some feedback from Pindelski, Nikon has 4 different versions of 55mm f/1.2 lenses, only 2 of which have the scalloped, all-metal focus ring (which is what I am after). These two all-metal versions are:
The other pre-AI 55 f/1.2 Nikkor (K) has the same rubber focus ring as the 50mm AI-S, so I am not interested in this one.

It is my understanding, concerning the two bulleted pre-AI versions that are all-metal, that the Nikkor 55/1.2 S ♦ C-Auto is the preferable option as this one has the more modern multi-coating and is likely the better choice for a modern DSLR.

My question is, has anyone directly compared the pre-AI Nikkor 55/1.2 S ♦ C-Auto to the AI-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.2?

If so, how would you characterize the differences, if any?

Thanks,

Bjørn Rørslett

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Re: Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2017, 20:14:10 »
I own both lenses.

The 55/1.2 is softer and less contrasty than the 50/1.2, this is in particular evident at the widest stops. From f/5.6 onwards they behave very similar, though.

These lenses do exhibit a "veiling flare" wide or near wide open, which some user don't like and others find endearing.

Roland Vink

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Re: Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2017, 20:24:03 »
I don't have the 55/1.2 S.C but I do have the K version. Both are multicoated but the optics of the K version are tweaked slightly, probably to improve close range performance since it focuses closer - 0.5m instead of 0.6m, so the S.C may perform differently although I expect them to be similar overall.

Wide open the images almost have a soft-focus look. Contrast is on the low side and there is a soft glow around the subject but with a core of sharpness. I have only used the AIS 50/1.2 briefly but my impression is that wide open it produces much cleaner images, not unlike a faster version of the AIS 50/1.4. Background bokeh on both versions tends to be busy or complex, so you may need to choose backgrounds carefully.
At smaller apertures the image becomes cleaner, and by medium apertures it produces sharp images with good contrast and colors, as you would expect with any standard lens.

I like the slightly longer than normal focal length. Nikon has an article on the development of this lens here: http://imaging.nikon.com/history/story/0049/index.htm

If you want the old style look with more cleaner imaging characteristics, consider the Voigtlander 58/1.4 SL II S

The attached picture was taken with my 55/1.2 at f/5.6.

JKoerner007

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Re: Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2017, 21:34:23 »
I own both lenses.

The 55/1.2 is softer and less contrasty than the 50/1.2, this is in particular evident at the widest stops. From f/5.6 onwards they behave very similar, though.

These lenses do exhibit a "veiling flare" wide or near wide open, which some user don't like and others find endearing.

Thanks for the feedback.

JKoerner007

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Re: Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2017, 21:43:16 »
I don't have the 55/1.2 S.C but I do have the K version. Both are multicoated but the optics of the K version are tweaked slightly, probably to improve close range performance since it focuses closer - 0.5m instead of 0.6m, so the S.C may perform differently although I expect them to be similar overall.

Wide open the images almost have a soft-focus look. Contrast is on the low side and there is a soft glow around the subject but with a core of sharpness. I have only used the AIS 50/1.2 briefly but my impression is that wide open it produces much cleaner images, not unlike a faster version of the AIS 50/1.4. Background bokeh on both versions tends to be busy or complex, so you may need to choose backgrounds carefully.
At smaller apertures the image becomes cleaner, and by medium apertures it produces sharp images with good contrast and colors, as you would expect with any standard lens.

I like the slightly longer than normal focal length. Nikon has an article on the development of this lens here: http://imaging.nikon.com/history/story/0049/index.htm

If you want the old style look with more cleaner imaging characteristics, consider the Voigtlander 58/1.4 SL II S

The attached picture was taken with my 55/1.2 at f/5.6.

Much appreciated, Roland—and terrific, colorful image!

I actually bought the Voigtlander 58/1.4 SL II S and I really like it, in some ways, not so much in others.
It is razor-sharp, renders nicely, except often there is a reddish (warmer) veil to the overall image.
It also has a similar, squirrely background as the 50 Ai-S, wide-open, but I think it is sharper at its fastest aperture.

Here are a couple of snapshots taken with the Voigtlander 58/1.4 SL II S @ f/1.4 in Zion:

Roland Vink

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Re: Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2017, 22:26:19 »
If you want a standard lens with smoother backgrounds, the best options that I know of are the 58/1.2 Noct, the AFS 58/1.4 Neo-Noct, and I think the humble AFS 50/1.8 might not be too bad either. But of course the 58mm lenses are extremely expensive, and none have the old style focus ring that you want, especially the AFS models. I'll see if I can dig up some more pictures with my 55/1.2...

JKoerner007

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Re: Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2017, 04:08:33 »
If you want a standard lens with smoother backgrounds, the best options that I know of are the 58/1.2 Noct, the AFS 58/1.4 Neo-Noct, and I think the humble AFS 50/1.8 might not be too bad either. But of course the 58mm lenses are extremely expensive, and none have the old style focus ring that you want, especially the AFS models. I'll see if I can dig up some more pictures with my 55/1.2...

Thanks, Roland.

I personally would never spend the $$$ on a Noct., which is pretty soft wide-open as well:



While the Noct. has its benefits (with respect to coma), after looking at many images from it, IMO the Noct. is possibly the most-overrated, under-performing piece of glass there is. (It's worth maybe $500 more than an AI-S, no more.)

If I were going to spend $3000-$4000 on a used 55-58mm lens, it would be a used Zeiss Otus 55.

Same thing with the AFS 58/1.4 Neo-Noct.:



If you click the link ^ above ^ regarding the rendering, however, the Neo-Noct has the best bokeh of the bunch, which is why (even though it's soft) so many people seem to love it.
(Being somewhat soft, with great bokeh, is probably why it's vaulted as such a great portrait lens.)

I am curious to see more Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C shots, so please do share more.
I think (although it may lag, sharpness-wise, as you and Bjørn point out, it may be that the elder pre-AI versions render bokeh better, like the Neo-Noct. does).

However, if we get back to the subject of pure sharpness, it's hard not to compare the dismal scores above to the Otus 55 below (same price, used, as a Noct.):


Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus

Like Michael, I seek extreme sharpness wide-open.
That said, the Zeiss Otus 55 is twice as sharp at f/1.4 than the Noct. ... and is even vastly sharper than the Noct. is @ f/4.0.
This is why I wouldn't pay more than a thousand bucks for a Noct. It's a joke, really, unless you're a vampire, or astro-shooter, and shoot night only. Even then, I doubt it would beat an Otus.
Based on the above, I am considering buying a used Otus.
However, I don't want to spend $3-$4K for a 50mm, nor do I want that kind of weight in my bag (for one lens), regardless of the price.
I have though about a Milvus f/1.4, but they're big and heavy too.

In the end, I think I am going to stick with my Voightlander. It is a better lens than any Nikkor 50mm, esp. wide-open:


Voigtländer Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL (Version I, not II)

Keep in mind, this is a graph on the older version. I have not seen any MTF stats on the newer one, which I have, and I suspect it will be somewhat improved.

I don't really care about edge sharpness, but I very much do care about center-mid sharpness wide-open.
The Voigtländer beats any Nikkor 50-58mm lens in this regard, and also has better CA correction than any Nikkor 50-58 lens:


Voigtländer Nokton 58mm **CA** (Version I, not II)


Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 Noct. + Nikkor 58mm Neo-Noct. **CA**


I am trying to get used to the 'reddish' (warmer) veil the Voigtländer has ... which seems only to be present when under-exposed a bit.
Properly-exposed (and over-exposed a tad) it seems to be quite clear and neutral.

It is, for sure, sharper than my ex-Nikkor 50mm AI-S wide-open. In fact, it's about as sharp as the Zeiss 50mm Milvus wide-open (the Angry Photographer calls the new Voigtländer Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II S "The Best Lens Value Ever.")

In closing, here are some snapshots I took at my father's 90th birthday, two weeks ago, this last October 25th (my 81 year old mom would kill me if she knew I posted images of her online, lol).
If anyone wonders why I am "John Koerner II," it is because I was born the day after my dad's own birthday. (What else are you going to name your kid, if he's born the day after your own birthday :) )
So, really, it was a dual birthday party. Anyway, enjoy:

1. @f/1.4 ... razor-thin DOF ... brother in-focus, dad not.
2. Sr. and Jr.
3. Relaxing doggy
4. Lounging mom
5. Sr. & Jr. celebrating w/ the same cake

richardHaw

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John Geerts

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Re: Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2017, 15:50:42 »
I think (although it may lag, sharpness-wise, as you and Bjørn point out, it may be that the elder pre-AI versions render bokeh better, like the Neo-Noct. does).
Was the Nikkor 5.8cm f/1.4 already mentioned here?  I love it's bokeh. (This is with the 4T)

JKoerner007

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Re: Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2017, 19:29:28 »

JKoerner007

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Re: Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2017, 19:32:11 »
Was the Nikkor 5.8cm f/1.4 already mentioned here?  I love it's bokeh. (This is with the 4T)

Terrific image, John.

Your offering seems to confirm my speculation above: "... although it may lag, sharpness-wise, as you and Bjørn point out, it may be that the elder pre-AI versions render bokeh better, like the Neo-Noct. does ..."

John Geerts

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Re: Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2017, 20:23:32 »
Thanks.  That might be the case, central sharpness is usually better than later versions depending on the lens.  It's Off topic here, but I noticed the same pleasant bokeh's on the longer end  with the pre Ai  85/1.8  105/2.5  135/2.8 and the 200/4 Q (C). (an example of the last one is in today's 'November' topic)

Roland Vink

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Re: Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2017, 21:29:30 »
A few points:

1. I agree the Noct is expensive, but it was never a cheap lens, very expensive to hand polish the aspherical element, and only made in limited numbers, it was the "Otus" of its time. I don't think it is over-rated, but it is over-priced - it is a shame that collectors have pushed the price so high, out of the reach of many who would like to use it. Even without collectors I would expect it to be well above $500, and more than the more conventional AIS 50/1.2 costs to buy new today.

2. MTF charts have their place but I would never judge a lens on them alone. These charts say very little about rendering characteristics except for sharpness of a flat subject at a fixed distance. The Noct, Neo-Noct and 55/1.2 all have significant field curvature so corner sharpness is never going to score highly on flat MTF charts. This says nothing about their performance on real-world 3D subjects. They may actually have very good corner sharpness, but a little in front or behind the test chart. Lenses with flatter fields like the Otus are always going to look better in these tests. The designers of the Neo-Noct purposely designed the lens with field curvature to make the background rendition smoother. This was a brave decision as it does not look good in most test charts, they had different design goals, and most who use it find the sharpness is perfectly acceptable and the overall rendition is very pleasing. That's not to say everyone will be happy with this lens, some will prefer the Otus or Voigtlander or something else...

3. You said you seek extreme sharpness wide open. If that is your goal, the 55/1.2 S.C is likely to disappoint since it is less sharp than any of the other options mentioned.

4. I was up last night until nearly midnight sanding and cleaning down my daughter's room in preparation for re-painting. I had no time to find more pictures, maybe later this week.

Airy

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Re: Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2017, 22:17:31 »
I have both the Voigt 58/1.4 and the Noct Nikkor. The Voigt is indeed incredible value for money. But the contrast and (relative) sharpness of the Noct wide open are definitely worth a look. Two very different lenses.

Back to the subject - I also had a 55/1.2 in hands a couple of times ; interesting lens, but any 50/1.2 (AI or AIS) would probably serve you better. As a matter of fact, the 50/1.2 AI was my allrounder for some time. Sharpness and contrast wide open is much less than what the Noct would deliver, though.
Airy Magnien

JKoerner007

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Re: Pre-AI 55mm f/1.2 S ♦ C
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2017, 23:52:45 »
Thanks.  That might be the case, central sharpness is usually better than later versions depending on the lens.  It's Off topic here, but I noticed the same pleasant bokeh's on the longer end  with the pre Ai  85/1.8  105/2.5  135/2.8 and the 200/4 Q (C). (an example of the last one is in today's 'November' topic)

Rubbing my chin, more and more, on these ol' lenses—thanks.